Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Two wars, one approach

By Michael Scheuer
Asia Times

".....Today, the process thus described seems to be ongoing. In Iraq, it seems clear that Afghan instructors have slowly inculcated among Iraqi fighters the skills they acquired while learning to counter Soviet attack and transport helicopters with such weapons as heavy machine guns (12.7mm and 14.5mm) and rocket-propelled grenades.

During the anti-Soviet jihad, the Afghans gradually developed this skill which tellingly punished the Soviet helicopter fleet, and which was later greatly augmented by the addition of shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. The transfer of this skill to the Iraqis appears to have taken some time as it is only in the past year that a significant number of US helicopters have been downed.

The other major skill the Iraqi Sunni insurgents have acquired from the Afghan theater is, as noted above, the use of electronic media. The Iraqis' skill in this regard almost certainly represents the major contribution made by the al-Qaeda fighters who came from Afghanistan to support the Iraqi jihad under the leadership of long-time senior Osama bin Laden insurgent commander Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi.

In Afghanistan, the contribution of the Iraqi insurgents is clear in three areas. First, the Afghan Islamists' use of remotely detonated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has expanded both in number and skillful employment during the past two years. The use of IEDs was haphazard and minimally effective during the jihad against the Soviets and in the first year after the US invasion.

By late 2003, however, the use and lethality of IEDs in Afghanistan were increasing and a senior British officer there attributed that reality directly to skills acquired by the Afghans from the Iraqis. "There is no doubt," Colonel Mike Griffiths told the media. "There are now indications of technology transfer from Iraq. Some of the things we have seen in Iraq we are beginning to see here." Today, highly lethal IEDs are a fact of daily life for coalition forces.

The second contribution from Iraq appears to be the suicide bomber, although the Afghans are not yet as skilled and accurate as the Iraqis in using this weapon. Suicide attacks were all but unheard of during the 13-year struggle (1979-1992) between the Afghan mujahideen and the Soviet and Afghan communists. Since the Afghan election in September 2005, however, the number of insurgent attacks featuring suicide operatives has grown from a few dozen to hundreds, a reality that senior Taliban leaders have suggested is the result of the "Iraqi mujahideen" who are in Afghanistan "to support us in suicide attacks and operations".

Finally, the Taliban appear to have adopted a set of brutal counter-intelligence techniques that are common in Iraq, but have previously been applied in a hit-and-miss manner in Afghanistan. In the last year or so, for example, the Taliban have developed a fairly systematic process of identifying Afghans who are providing information to President Hamid Karzai's regime, coalition forces or Pakistani intelligence, kidnapping and killing them and often members of their family, and then broadcasting the news of the executions to dissuade others from similar activity.

At times, Taliban intelligence has even beheaded suspected informers, an action which has not yet induced the same level of popular revulsion that it did in Iraq in 2005-2006. All told, the 2005 words of Iraq-trained Taliban field commander Mohammed Daud ring true: "I am explaining to my fighters every day the lessons I learned and my experience in Iraq. I want to copy in Afghanistan the tactics and experience of the glorious Iraqi resistance." "

No comments: